Mega Canal, Mega Mistake?

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-19 15:44:27

Nicaragua’s mega canal could become a mega mistake an international panel warns.

The group of experts, brought together by Florida International University, claim that $50 billion proposed canal could prove disastrous for Nicaragua if a proper evaluation of the canal’s impact is not undertaken.

A report released this week summarizes the comments and concerns raised the panel of experts who reviewed an early draft of the environmental impact study for the Nicaragua canal. The panelists reviewed ecological and hydrological assessments for project back in March. They found the evaluations were narrow in scope and did not take into account the full impact of the construction and operation of canal facilities.

“Because of the unprecedented magnitude of the project and the limited information available about some of the constructions plans, the effects of the proposed disturbances on the ecological processes, as well as the level and significance of many of these impacts cannot yet be fully analyzed,” the report says.

In particular the experts raise concern over the short time-table of the study. The study was conducted in 1.5 years, while similar smaller-scale projects typically look at large time periods to conduct their assessments. A proposed 1970s sea-level canal through Panama spent 10 years determining environmental feasibility before scrapping the project.

Similarly, the Three Gorge Dam project in China, which was smaller in scope than the Nicaraguan canal, went ahead based on an environmental study of roughly the same magnitude. The experts claim that the Three Gorge Dam project, has since become a prime example of the unanticipated environmental costs of megaprojects, from frequent landslides to water pollution and even increased seismic activity.

They go on to say that larger regional effects of habitat and species loss must be considered, instead of just the impact of the construction area. Additionally, the panelists raise serious concerns about the lack of data available regarding water quality and flow of the canal, which will pass through Lake Nicaragua, the world’s largest fresh water source.

The experts’ misgivings are based on a preliminary draft of the environmental impact study, however the completed study has not been released to the public. The final Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was delivered to HKND, the Chinese construction firm responsible for the project, as well as the Nicaraguan government May 31.

“Unfortunately, aside from a few optimistic reports in state-sponsored media claiming that the project is “viable,” the contents of the ESIA remain unknown to Nicaragua’s people and the international community,” the experts say in a written release.

They go on to add, “It’s time for the Nicaraguan government to make [the] assessment of the canal’s environmental and social costs available to the public. Holding it in secrecy not only undermines the power of the Nicaraguan citizenry to assess the project, it calls into question the legitimacy of the entire ESIA process.”

Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo expressed frustration early this month over a lack of information given to his government. Most notably the leader wanted to know about the possible effects of sedimentation in the San Juan River, which runs through both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The report of the panelist findings can be found here.


Cruise Ship Allides with Lock Wall, 30 Injured

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-19 12:35:51

A small cruise ship allided with a lock wall in the St. Lawrence Seaway Thursday evening, injuring 30 people.

The Saint Laurent, a 286-foot cruise ship struck a wall in the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, New York. There were 274 people aboard the ship at the time of the incident. Rescue crews assisted in removing the twenty-seven injured passengers and three injured crew members. Two people are believed to have sustained serious injuries. All other passengers remained on the ship overnight.

At approximately 9:15pm the Saint Laurent hit an approach wall bumper as it entered the U.S.-operated Eisenhower Lock. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the incident at 9:45 pm and dispatched a response boat as well as a marine inspector to the scene.

Damage to Saint Laurent’s Bow Image Courtesy of Michael Folsom via Twitter @theshipwatcher.

The cruise ship sustained heavy damage to the bow area and began taking on water. A Coast Guard spokeswoman reported that crews quickly shut the lock doors and removed water to prevent the ship from sinking.

The Coast Guard has said that the ship will remain in the lock with both doors shut until it can be transported to another location. As of 9:30am Friday, The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation reports no traffic is being permitted through the Eisenhower locks. Seven commercial vessels have been delayed by the incident.

Saint Laurent in Einsenhower Locks Image Courtesy of SeawayNNY via Twitter @SeawayNNY.

The Saint Laurent is owned by International Shipping Partners and was on enroute to Toronto. The cause of the allision is still under investigation.

The ship is reported to be stable with no indications of pollution.


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